Why overseas absentee voters matter in the presidential election

Impact of overseas voters

Many voters in the United States will tell you this presidential campaign has lasted far too long. But in the rest of the world, it’s just getting started. 

About six million American citizens live in other countries. Traditionally, very few of them cast a ballot. But an effort is now underway to change that, reports CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti.

When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump headline an event, people show up, even in London, where who should be president was debated Tuesday night in a very British way.

American politics has invaded the UK, from a hall of Westminster to the streets just outside.

All this pageantry is part of a get-out-the-vote campaign aimed at the 300,000 American voters living here. 

The message is ramping up from Trump supporters in Israel to Clinton backers in Mexico. 

There’s an estimated 5.7 million Americans living abroad. Of them, 2.6 million are eligible to vote. But only around 5 percent voted in 2012 -- a small fraction of the 57% percent of Americans that turned out to vote in the States.

Patrick Andrelic studies voter turnout at Oxford University.

“Does the expat vote really matter?” Vigliotti asked.

“I certainly think it does, and it matters more on the state they are voting in,” Andrelic said. “In states that are very close in the polling recently, it definitely could matter.”

Just rewind to Election night in 2000George W. Bush and Al Gore were neck and neck. But with the ballots from overseas, Bush won with just a 537 margin.  

“If those had not been included then Al Gore would have carried the state and the presidency by 202 votes,” Andrelic said.

Andrelic said Ohio could be this year’s Florida. If polls used in the Oxford study prove accurate, Trump would need a margin of 5,600 voters to swing the state in his direction.

And so this year’s overseas campaign carries on to raise voter turnout above that five-percent mark and possibly swing an unpredictable election.

As for the crowd in Westminster Tuesday night, they weighed in on who they’d vote for. Clinton beat Trump 308 to 111.